We should forget our differences and all get along. That's the basic message of Pixar's latest film, BRAVE, a coming of age story set in a magical medieval Scottish kingdom. Unfortunately, the film's list of differences includes feminism.
It's a gorgeous film, with hilarious characters and wonderful music, but any children in the vicinity should have a long talk about gender roles with their parents afterwards.
Queen Elinor is trying to mould her daughter Merida into a proper princess. When the three tribes of the kingdom turn up to present distinctly undesirable suitors for her hand in marriage, Merina rebels big time. So far so good. A feisty red-headed princess is always worth watching, especially when voiced by the fantastic Kelly Macdonald.
But Merida's big journey is that she accepts her destiny to marry and be Queen. We are told explicitly that rejecting your fate is an absolute no-no because it causes trouble for everyone else. Men can't cope on their own, so women have to run after them making placatory noises and presumably cooking and cleaning too. It's just the way it is.
The compromises that Merina gets to choose her own husband and that she is allowed to leave her hair loose while she gallops around on horseback don't really alleviate my overall impression that this film is almost impressively regressive in terms of gender roles.
All of the males in this film, from the young princes to the tribe leaders, are violent idiots. We like them, if indeed we do like them, because they are funny, jovial and/or rotund.
All of the women, and there are only four, are defined by their marital status: the spirited virgin, the controlling mother, the matronly nanny, and the wrinkly old maid.
Having said that, there's no denying the characters are really funny and immediately sympathetic. My favourite is the witch who rejects her occult vocation in favour of selling wood carvings at music festivals, thus - you guessed it - causing an awful lot of trouble for everyone else.
Billy Connolly as the King is super, and the developing mother-daughter relationship between Emma Thompson and Kelly Macdonald is beautiful.
There are set scenes that are funny for both adults and children - the addition of charades to a serious political negotiation at the climax of the film in particular.
The celtic rock songs, not to mention the gorgeous animations, are lovely.
There's even a Clan MacGuffin.
It's just a shame that such a well-made and watchable movie has given stifling gender roles to all of its characters, both male and female.